Technology Timesavers for Teachers

by Jill Scott on March 29, 2012

Teachers today are fortunate to have access to technological tools that make our jobs easier and minimize the paperwork involved in educating our students. I didn’t grow up with computers like today’s students did, but I’m very much on board with becoming more tech savvy and, yes, even accepting help from my students when I have technical difficulties.

About a year ago I bought myself an iPad after saving for it for months. It was going to help me organize my life, both at home and at school, and guess what? It did. I love my iPad and I can’t see myself living without it. Today I want to share with you some of my favorite apps and websites that I use in the classroom.

The first tool I use is DropBox and you don’t have to have an iPad to use it. It’s the icon with the red arrow pointing to it. It’s a free app that I have downloaded on my PC at school, my Mac and my laptop at home, my iPhone, and my iPad. The fact that I’m using it on windows driven computers and Macs interchangeably doesn’t matter one little bit.

DropBox is a way to store your documents “in the cloud” so that you have access to them wherever you are. You can even access your documents from any computer that has an internet connection, regardless of whether the app is loaded on the computer you’re using or not.

I cannot tell you how liberating it was for me to kick my jump drive to the curb. I can start my lesson plans on my computer at school, and when I turn on my computer at home, DropBox automatically updates any changed files. I work on my lesson plans at home as well as at school, and I can go back and forth like that as much as I want. With DropBox I’m always working on the most up-to-date copy without having to remember which computer has the most current file.

I also don’t have the problem of having some files on my computer at home and some on my computer at school. I have everything I need, no matter where I’m at.

That makes this control freak happy, let me tell you.

The other website and free app I use is Dictionary.com. I love it not only because I can look words up super fast and appear smarter than I am, but check this out.

Do you see that little blue speaker up there in the upper right corner? That magical little button enables you to hear the correct pronunciation of the word.

Imagine!

Is it me, or are there some words that no matter how many times you look them up, you still cannot remember how to properly pronounce them? Like scythe. That one slays me every time. I think I finally have scourge down. Probably because it is so fun to say.

The nifty thing is that students love to learn when they can use fun tools like this. Whenever I struggle with a word or how to define a word, they are quick to encourage me to look it up on the computer. In fact, they want to do it for me. They’re young and limber and very comfortable with technology, so why the heck not? Educate me, Little People.

One app I use is Teacher Assistant. I’ve only been using this one for a couple of months, but so far I love it. I use it to collect data about behavior, good and bad. I’ve tried many different ways to collect behavioral data and all of them were cumbersome and did not work for me long-term. This app is working for me, so Yay!

I got this screen shot from the Teacher Assistant website, so don’t worry, it isn’t one of my students. I wanted to show you an example without infringing on my students’ privacy. That, and I was too lazy to make a bogus student and their accompanying entries.

The next app I’ve been using for a while is called Stick Pick and it enables me to call on students randomly.

I can have multiple classes and groupings, so this app would work great for secondary teachers as well as elementary teachers.

This is what the sticks look like when I’m using them to call on students. I just touch the large can and it makes a shuffling noise before this next screen comes up.

I can choose to reset the stick if I want. I reset the sticks when I don’t want the students to get complacent thinking they’ve already been called and they can relax without worrying about being called on again. I can also mark the sticks as used, and that enables me to make sure everyone gets a turn. The beauty of this app is that the students never know whether I’m resetting the sticks or not, and they never question whether or not the selection is fair because I’m not the one calling on them, the robot that lives in my iPad is. They trust technology and that’s a beautiful thing.

This next app, Smart Seat, is a new app for me and I loooooooooove it. It makes changing seats a breeze. Before I found this app, I tried another app that didn’t work out so great. It was called Seat Charter and it stank, so I want you to stay far away from it. Please make sure you don’t waste your money on it. It had nice graphics, but I couldn’t control the graphics or group the students’ names with their desks. It was seriously more trouble than it was worth so I deleted it off my iPad in a fit of rage. And it wasn’t free. I’m still mad about it.

Smart Seat doesn’t have cool graphics but it works, and that’s what’s important anyway, isn’t it? What I like most about it is that I can make seating charts and tweak them on the fly. For example, the last time we moved seats I noticed that I had made a bad choice, so I just put my finger on the student’s name that I had to move, and I moved him. It was that easy. This screen shot shows me doing just that. While the desk is in transit, it’s yellow and larger. When I plop it into place it will look like all the others.

Skippy John Jones was naughty so I moved him to Alaska. The rest of the class is in the contiguous United States and Alaska is not, so that’s what we call the desk that is separated from the rest of the class.

I can also e-mail my seating charts to myself in pdf form so I can print them out for a sub. I love that.

The last app I want to share with you is more of a preview of what’s to come. With the Common Core Standards coming into play, I think we’re going to be seeing more apps and more flexibility within the apps. I have this app, CommonCore, because it was free and less cumbersome than flipping through my district provided standards that are printed on legal-sized paper in a 3-point font. You know how helpful that is, don’t you?.

This app has Math and Language Arts standards for all grades, but it is much easier to read than the spreadsheets that are posted online or that our districts print out for us.

This screen shot shows the 6th grade math standard 6.NS.1.

This particular app doesn’t allow you to make notes, it is just the standards.

I envision having access to an app that would allow me to make notes on each of the standards with regards to curriculum and resources I use and can use to teach each standard. How cool to have all of that information in one place and be able to access it anywhere. It blows my mind.

I hope you have the opportunity to use some of these technology time savers that I use in my classroom.

- Jill Scott, Controlling My Chaos

What about you? What do you use and love that you couldn’t live without? I’d love to try something new.

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  • Kimberly Herbert

    You missed an important part of dictionary.com app. You can click the microphone and say the word. Great when you use a word in conversation, but are unsure how to spell it. I’m dyslexic and love love love that part of the app. 

    Zite – Put in your RSS feed. Then like things and topics. It seeks out good articles for you. That is how I found this blog. 

    Evernote – Every kid in my class has a notebook full of notes, photographs and recordings. In team meeting and want to show the group something my kids did successfully or something I need better ideas on – I can show them exactly what the kids were doing. 

    • lauraparkerblog

      Great additions, Kimberly– thanks for taking the time to add them! I’ve heard lots of great things about evernote!

    • http://www.controllingmychaos.com Jill Scott

      Thanks for the tips, Kimberly. Actually, I never even noticed the microphone on Dictionary.com. That makes me like it even more.

    • http://www.controllingmychaos.com Jill Scott

      Thank you for the tip, Kimberly. I didn’t even know about that feature on Dictionary.com. It makes it even more useful to me now!

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  • lauraparkerblog

    That’s awesome, Jill! I love this practical list.  You are such a valuable asset to us here at MyTeachersLounge.  Thanks for sharing your insights here– I know they are helping many!  You are a rock star!

    • http://www.controllingmychaos.com Jill Scott

      Thanks for having me, Laura. :)

  • Janet Abercrombie

    Thanks so much for this! I had Stick Picks and Dropbox – love them. I’ve been looking for an easier way to do seating arrangements and keep up with student behaviors (both good and bad).

    Have you tried “Confer”? It keeps track of your individual reading/writing conferences with students. It’s a great record of academic conversations.

    Janet | expateducator.com 

    • http://www.controllingmychaos.com Jill Scott

      Janet, I haven’t tried “Confer.” I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!

    • lauraparkerblog

       Oh, Janet– will have to check that out!  thanks for the tip on Confer!  :)

    • Emcf2

      I love confer.  It was just what I wanted to keep track of reading and writing student conferences.

  • http://twitter.com/mswift Marie Swift

    This is a very helpful post.  I just wanted to add a comment about Dictionary.com.  My students and I love the little microphone at the top right.  How can a child check the spelling of a word if he/she has no idea how to spell it?  You click on the microphone and say your word into the iPhone version and it is usually quite accurate.  The kids can read the definition that appears, to determine if their spoken word was correctly interpreted.  It’s awesome!

    • http://www.controllingmychaos.com Jill Scott

      Again, I didn’t even know that Dictionary.com had this feature. I can see myself using it even more now. Thanks for the tip!

  • Dlmcmorris

    Thank you so much for sharing your ideas! I know what I’ll be doing on my iPad today!

    • http://www.controllingmychaos.com Jill Scott

      You are so welcome. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment!

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  • Heather Reed

    Flipbook; Live Binders  = other good apps for teachers, too

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  • http://twitter.com/shamblesguru Shamblesguru

    Nice list … learnt of a couple of Apps I did not know about … so many thanks.

    May include them in my eBook “An Educator’s iPad” when I revise/update it at the end of the year http://aneducatorsipad.com 

    Have also added to my lists at http://shambles.net/ICT/#mobile

    Regards

    Shamblesguru / Chris Smith

    • Heidi Cook

      Just checked out a sample of the book and then purchased it. Great preparation for my faculty as we prepare for going 1-to-1. Thanks Chris!

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  • Kelly Fisher-Bishop

    Thanks so much for the great list of Apps.  Another great FREE program is classdojo.com.  They don’t have an app yet, but it can be easily used from an ipad or any computer to track daily student behavior, attendance, or participation.  Thanks again!
    Kelly Fisher-Bishop, Instructional Coach
    http://msbinstructionalcoach.wordpress.com/

    • Smcgilvra

       Thanks for this.  I don’t have an ipad or iphone so can’t use the apps but I like this one because it is on my computer. 

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  • http://twitter.com/mseideman Melissa Seideman

    I can’t live without wunderlist. It is a great app that helps me stay organized professionally and personally. It ELIMINATED post its and to do lists for me. Here’s my blog post about it: http://notanotherhistoryteacher.edublogs.org/2011/04/25/wunderlist-no-more-paper-to-do-lists/ 

  • http://amylsullivan.blogspot.com/ Amy Sullivan

    Do you know who loves this post? Me, me, me! I’ve been looking for something EXACTLY like this. Thanks for all the time you put into creating it and sharing with us, and now off to the added plus, all the comments!

    Thanks, Jill.

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  • Kristen

    I use Class Dojo.com. It’s a website, but they have an app, too. So I keep the page up on my SmartBoard, but then also use my smartphone when we’re not in the classroom. It too, is free and allows me to award/take away points for behaviors for individuals, groups of kids, or the entire class. The best part is we chose the goals together. Looove it! :)

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thanks, Kristen– sounds like a great tool, for sure! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Kcarp222

    I fully agree with you!  I have been using Dropbox for about 1 1/2 years now and honestly don’t know what I would do about it.  Just this afternoon I had a co-worker complain that the file she was looking for was on her home computer.  I told her if she would sign up for Dropbox (like I’ve invited her), she wouldn’t have that problem.  I also use Stick Pick and the Common Core Standards app.   I will have to check out the two others you mentioned :)

    • lauraparkerblog

      Yes! I LOVE DROPBOX for my personal use/sharing, too!

  • Sherrie

    Classdojo is great, and they do have an app!  I’ve been using the app for many months.  You can use the app like a remote control, but I mostly use it to add and delete points, especially walking down the hall.  The students can hear a ding or a buzz, but they don’t know who got the point or who lost it.  The students prefer seeing their points on the projector screen though.

  • http://twitter.com/agittner Alastair Gittner

    Great post and I’ve got ideas for my classes.  As a matter of interest which program are you using for your lesson plans?

  • http://twitter.com/spanishplans Spanish Plans

    Love the seating chart app, will have to try that one out! It’s way better than the old pencil and paper method. And the seating chart on our powerschool has not been working, so this one I will definitely check out and let my colleagues know about.

    Some other “stick pick” type apps I’ve used also can be used to track participation. They are:
    1) Pikme
    2) MyClassTalk
    3) Pick Me!

    I wrote a review of them here: http://spanishplans.org/2012/02/20/participation-apps/

  • Jillw

    I would love a app that would allow me to see all of my google calendars.  Master school calendar, zoned campus calendar, field trip calendar.  I can only see my personal gmail calendar and my work calendar.  I created all of these calendars.  Thanks for you help!!

  • Beverlyhelland

    GREAT info thanks!!

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  • Ncastellow

    I just started using Class DOJO for a behavior management and documentation app and it is FREE and FANTASTIC!

  • ksa

    Thank you for sharing !!!  I need to go download those apps! :)

  • Queen Scarlet

    http://classroom.booksource.com/   best thing since sliced bread…allows you to manage your classroom library!

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  • Iris92

    This is great info. My school just purchased iPads for teachers which means that I have the summer to play. Here is my question, is there any way to connect my iPad to my projector in order to display presentations or other things that I may want to share with the students?

    • http://www.controllingmychaos.com Jill Scott

      Yes,there is. Go to Best Buy (or any other electronic store that sells iPads), and ask them for a connector. I believe it is a VGA connector. I bought one at Best Buy and it was about $30.

    • Abigail

      There is an adapter that connects to the computer if you use an interactive whiteboard.

      • Smontgom

        There is also an ap called sync pad

    • Deniseandjj

      Apple TV is the best.  It is an adapter that plugs into your projector and then you just connect! It is really easy and unlike the VGA adapter it is wireless so it won’t fall out.

  • Iverson Kristin

    Have you checked out the Teacher Pal app? It has many of these same features in one spot. Attendance, grades, behavior, profiles, and seating charts. I’ve been using it for a while and find it to be extremely helpful.

    • http://www.controllingmychaos.com Jill Scott

      Kristin, I have not heard of that app, but I will definitely check it out. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/jennifer.f.harper.1 Jennifer Foster Harper

      I looked for the app “Teacher Pal” on iTunes and it came up with nothing. Might it be called something else?

  • Abigail

    Is there a way to use Evernote to annotate the standards on the Common Core app?

  • RWong

    I love Teacher Assistant.  Great App!  I would like to know more about Groovy Grader.

  • GDV

    The most useful info about apps for teachers. Thanks a lot!! I’m going to download everything you suggested…right NOW!
    GDV from Sardinia, Italy

  • Bobbi Whitlow

    Great list. One that I really like is ClassManager. It allows me to track and graph student behavior and interventions for every class I teach with 3-4 clicks. It comes with a great list of behaviors and interventions and allows you to add your own, plus comments or notes for each child. The program automatically time and date stamps your entry and compiles a summary. You can send the child’s record quickly to a printer for a hard copy. It’s not free but for 7 or 8 dollars it’s well worth it.

  • fourwheelinteach

    I use Level Finder for Accelerated Reader to find point levels for books, and I also use A+ Groovy Grader as a portable EZ grader. Great ideas! Thanks!

  • Christina

    You should check out ClassDojo for behavior management and ScootPad for Common Core K-5 practice :)

  • Christina

    You should check out ClassDojo for behavior management and ScootPad for Common Core K-5 practice :)

  • SB

    Folks try out Pikme on the iPhone – works great and looks beautiful.

  • Jessica

    Where did u get your beautiful screensaver?

  • Megreene

    I really like splashtop. It allows me to access my computer from my iPad creating a wireless mouse type set up in my classroom.

    • Lori

      I love splashtop too, and was going to suggest it

  • Brooks Ann Smith

    Planbook by Hellmansoft– can’t believe it hasn’t been mentioned- they have both windows, mac and IPad app that works together-lets you update info across platforms. It is a lesson planning tool and sets up daily schedule. Once you enter in your Standards and Units- it is awesome- prints out awesome lesson plans by the day or for the week. Lets you post them online with Planbook connect. They do cost- but Jeff the designer is AMAZING with customer support and is great about making changes/updates based on customer feedback. Because he was a teacher, he made something that works for teachers. It definitely takes some learning/work to get basics entered- but once entered it makes putting lessons plans together a breeze. It saves every lesson separately for easy copy and paste feature. Definitely check it out.

  • Heather

    Love all the apps, I had seen most but Smart Seat was new to me. Thank you for your full description. This helped!

  • gloriana19

    Fantastic list. Another one to try — flashcardelite app, or quizlet.com on the computer. It lets you make or download pre-made flashcards, and you can use them right on your ipod/ipad/iphone, or print them out from the computer app. Great study tool for high school students.

  • MrsMScience7

    Love your ideas, but where do these come from? Are they all Apple Apps? Any Android or PC?

  • Lauren MacDonald

    Timed test arcade is a great app for students to improve fact fluency without the teacher having to grade it. It’s helpful and fun,!

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